Julien Demoulin: Loose Ends
Great Panoptique Winter: Wildness
Sound In Silence
These three latest Sound In Silence releases neatly reflect the Athens-based label's range of interests, with Thee Koukouvaya's long-form ambient dronescape dramatically different in form from the song-oriented sets by Julien Demoulin and Great Panoptique Winter. We'll deal with Demoulin's first, given that it's the sole full-length of the three. If the France-born and Brussels-based producer's name rings a bell, it might be on account of the six albums and various EPs and singles he's issued under the Silencio name since 2004. Loose Ends is, interestingly, the first full-length he's released under his own name and is his second release on Sound In Silence following the Silencio collection Floods in 2013. Loose Ends didn't, however, develop out of a single concentrated period of production but is instead a collection of material created during the last decade. In keeping with such a production history, the album plays like a hodgepodge of experiments, sketches, and ideas—which shouldn't be construed to mean that its eleven pieces sound unfinished or unpolished. Though modest in aim and character, the recording isn't without charm.
A collegial spirit informs the recording, in large part due to the guests who join Demoulin. Isabelle Casier and Christophe Bailleau are among those who take part, and one track, “A Moment With Doyle,” isn't a Demoulin piece at all, but rather a field recordings-styled setting he recorded on a sunny day in Berkeley, CA where he happened upon Doyle (a busker, presumably) playing the mini-harp and asked if he could record his playing. “Love Loop,” the pretty guitar-based fragment that opens the collection, might have you thinking of Manual, and the connection surfaces elsewhere, too (the serene reverie “Uphill Battle” and grandiose mini-epic “Fading Mind,” to cite two examples). Demoulin tackles a number of different styles on this satisfying release, with a heavy emphasis on sparkling dream-pop, post-rock, and electronica, much of it melody-driven and featuring arrangements rich in guitars and synthesizers. With acoustic guitar layered in amongst the electrics, “Minute Papillon” adds a bit of African-styled rhythmning to the release, whereas “Crushes” entrances with wave upon wave of Demoulin's chiming electric. But perhaps the most memorable track is the stirring folk song “Into Shade,” which is set apart from the album's otherwise instrumental fare by Casier's warm vocal presence.
Also song-structured is Wildness, the twenty-seven-minute debut release from collaborators Jason Sweeney (Panoptique Electrical, Pretty Boy Crossover) and Richard Adams (Hood, The Declining Winter) under the Great Panoptique Winter name. The recording's six songs originated from drum loops by Noah Symons that Sweeney developed into song form by adding keyboards, bass, and samples (plus electronics and found sounds contributed by Cailan Burns and Tristan Louth-Robins), and then forwarding to Adams, who wrote lyrics and added vocals. It's the latter, of course, that accounts for the occasional Hood-like tone of the material, though that's admittedly only one part of the picture. Symons' drumming provides the wintry material with a muscular bottom end that Sweeney builds upon with a rich array of instrumental colour and that Adams also nicely crowns with his distinctive vocalizing. There's plenty of breathy singing and chilly atmospheric drift on the release (see “Cold Moments Melt”), and there are memorable moments, such as when Adams' voice rises up out of a deep, cavernous well during “How the Sun Leaves” and when wordless vocals rub shoulders with woodwind-like textures during the folk-tinged “Wildness.” Though the recording encompasses instrumentals and vocal songs, Wildness remains the most conventional of the three Sound In Silence releases in its focus on melodic pop form, and it's easy to imagine the songs appealing to fans of Talk Talk and Labradford.Located at the other end of the stylistic spectrum, Thee Koukouvaya is the brainchild of John O'Hara and Brian Wenckebach, the latter familiar in these parts as a member of the Brooklyn outfit Elika, whose Girls Be Serious EPs have provided us with so much pleasurable listening. Thee Koukouvaya is a different animal altogether, however, at least insofar as that can be determined on the basis of Witches' Jelly alone. The group's first mini-album and follow-up to a two-track single that appeared on Everything Is Chemical in 2014 is a twenty-nine-minute meditation that, assembled from layers of modular synthesizer and generative digital sequences, drifts at the highest of altitudes. Though Witches' Jelly is presented as a single track, it contains multiple parts, with a distorted voice episode bridging an otherworldly beginning and an at times plaintive closing section heavy in synthesizer whooshes and washes. Don't be surprised if words such as enveloping, disorienting, and phantasmagoric spring to mind as the grandiose epic unspools.